It’s all relative…
Is your enjoyment of Christmas being ruined even before the season starts by the thought of your family descending on you? Are you dreading in-laws who act like outlaws and come complete with ‘helpful’ advice or kids who proceed to wreck your house? The Supernanny team has this advice to help you keep the peace...
Lower your expectations
Over the holiday season, many of us overcompensate for the fact we haven’t seen our relatives all year and it means we expect Christmas to be a time of family joy, nostalgia and closeness. In reality it often isn’t, so don’t expect everything to be perfect. After all when there are a lot of family members gathered together, some tensions are bound to arise. Lots of people means a range of different personality types and some clashes are natural.
Be flexible with your house rules
If your sister’s kids are like a pack of wild animals you can enforce your house rules without necessarily doing any disciplining – after all, that’s up to her. Just make it clear where you draw the line when it comes to behaviour and language (and have a think about any areas where you can let up a little so she and her kids don’t feel as if they’re in boot camp).
So, if you catch her kids watching something unsuitable on TV – calmly state that children don’t watch that channel in your house and switch to another one, or turn off the TV. If they’re staying over but used to a later bedtime, compromise! Suggest that bedtime is pulled back slightly, but let your kids stay up half an hour later so they all meet in the middle.
Bear in mind that some of your relatives may have travelled large distances at huge financial cost, to visit you because that was more convenient for you – and cut them some slack if harmony breaks down
Your mother-in-law is bound to have her own ideas about what your kids should and shouldn’t be allowed to do, as well as her own opinions on your abilities as a parent. Outsmart her by seeming to agree with her before you defend your own way of doing things. For example, "I know, they do watch a lot more TV than we used to when we were kids, don’t they? But all the educational programming really helps them with their studies – Jack got an A for his project after watching a documentary on the Arctic."
If you're having to put up with constant sniping because you went back to work instead of staying at home full-time with the children, counter-attack with, “I often think about that decision. But did you hear about that new research that shows children in nurseries turn out to be a lot more sociable and smarter and tend to eat a healthier diet than kids who stay at home with their Mum?” If the criticism persists, try to nip it in the bud by saying, “Yes, I hear you – and I’ll definitely give it some thought after the holidays.” And of course you could go below the belt by pointing out that if her darling son was more successful in his career you could actually afford to stay at home…
During the holidays the pressure to make sure the atmosphere is relaxed, the guests are happy and the meal is cooked on time tends to fall on Mum. Ease some of the stress by acknowledging that you aren’t Wonder Woman, taking some time to yourself every day – and remembering that you can say no!
Respect their traditions
Religion can be a real flashpoint over the holidays, especially if you’ve married into a different one. Do your best to respect your relatives’ feelings when it comes to faith – perhaps you could ensure that any celebrations you’re throwing include some of their religious and cultural traditions, or let your kids accompany their relatives to services if they’d like to go.
Make perfect with practice!
If you’re worried that your holiday dinner is going to end in disaster because your children’s table manners don’t meet your relatives’ high standards, have a few practice meals in the run up to the visit so your kids get more accustomed to sitting still for at least a couple of courses! If you just know the kids will play up, it might be worth giving them their meal earlier than you’re having yours.
Stay in the present
If your house is packed to the rafters with your mum and dad, his mum and dad and a plethora of brothers and sisters, it’s all-too-easy to regress to your childhood, expecting your mum to do everything (or letting her boss you around) and building up a head of steam over things that might have happened in your childhood. Let go of resentments that have simmered since primary school, and move on! It was 20 years ago!
Make time for memories
It’s great for young children to hear stories about what you were like as a kid and the kinds of things your parents did to celebrate the holiday season. Get grandparents to share their stories with your children and these special memories and rituals can become a part of your more modern take on things. Perhaps you could even all take a vote on what old family tradition you’ll make a part of your celebrations next year!
The downside of having relatives come to you is that you’re stuck with them. But if travel is feasible, consider going to them so that you can limit the length of your stay!